I hope that you found the last article about our role as individuals and the role of the Church interesting.
The second part of that article is this one going a bit more into our role as individuals.
As a veteran myself, and from growing up in a family of veterans and law-enforcement officers, I’ve always had a heart for veterans and first responders. I joined the Air Force right before medical school, I went through a psychiatry residency to help those who are in the military and any other mental health issues they have.
I have tried to identify tools, resources, and strategies to help people remove barriers from experiencing the abundant life Jesus spoke about in John 10:10. However, I have experienced significant barriers within churches as well as with mental health professionals that prevent them from being a major source of hope and healing.
Sometimes it seems as if some mental health professionals deter people from exploring their faith and sometimes it seems churches deter people from seeking out mental health treatment. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, nor should it be.
Time and time again, I have been told by patients that they were “burned” by the church. There was a lot of hypocrisy, judgmentalism, and a lack of empathy, love, and compassion. I have certainly been guilty of those things throughout my life.
People told me how they were reluctant to do therapy because they’ve also been burned by therapists in the past due to lack of understanding, or due to therapists having a hair trigger to send them to the hospital. Or even providers stepping out of the bounds of their professional expertise. While probably well-intentioned, this is a huge issue.
As followers of Jesus, we must recognize when we are not being His “hands and feet,” and whether that is due to our own legalism, judgment, or our divisive issues between our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This reminds me of the chorus of the Casting Crowns’ song, “If We Are the Body.”
“But if we are the body Why aren't his arms reaching? Why aren't his hands healing? Why aren't his words teaching? And if we are the body Why aren't his feet going? Why is his love not showing them There is a way, there is a way”
In John 13:35, Jesus said,
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
One common misconception is that all believers in Jesus for His promise of everlasting life are disciples or are actively following Jesus, or that being obedient to Jesus is an automatic by-product of being saved. But this isn’t the case.
“Belief” is simply being convinced that Jesus is who He says He is— God in human flesh who offers everlasting life to those who simply believe in Him for it (John 3:16).
On the other hand, that decision to follow Him and obey—discipleship—is a choice of living for God and prioritizing Him and His Word in our daily lives (Matthew 16:25).
If we proclaim that we are disciples or followers of Jesus, we must have the integrity to let our actions match our words.
James 1:22 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
As mental health professionals, we must seek to understand those who come to us for help. We can’t assume what their worldview is, or what they need. We also can’t just assume that their worldview is the same as our own either.
We must seek to understand their background and beliefs. If we fail to do this, we are likely going to have a difficult time communicating with them and meeting them where they are.
It is difficult—but not impossible—in this individualistic culture to form friendships, and experience an authentic community with other believers. Common "courtesy," tells us often that we shouldn't bring up topics like religion and politics in conversations, and that it’s best to keep those topics to oneself.
However, James wrote and told us to do the opposite.
James 1:27 (NKJV) Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Who would want to keep that to oneself?
Orphans and widows were some of the most vulnerable people groups in James’ day. We are to not avoid or exploit those who are vulnerable in society but lift them up.
So if we follow that model, when it comes to those who are struggling, Let’s not lead with judgment, but instead lead with compassion and love.
When we are told by today’s culture to put ourselves first and prioritize individual happiness, there is naturally a lot of resistance toward engaging in an authentic community and seeking the well-being of others. What ends up happening is a re-definition of “community” to one that becomes a way to network and see what we can get from others instead of what we can give to others.
Let’s be a beacon of hope and light to those who are hurting. Let’s be compassionate, loving, and helpful, not harmful, and chase people away from sources of hope and help.
Psalm 112:4 (NKJV) Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.